- Therapy should be focused on helping you learn about yourself – not just to provide reassurance or support, but a “deep dive” into what your personal experience is actually like
- Finding a therapist who lives in the same area as you or who shares a similar cultural background can enhance the sense of understanding and compatibility
- Therapy consists of expressing curiosity in order to have healthy and productive back and forth dialogues about your unique experience
When you are a young professional looking for help, where do you turn to? How do you find a therapist who is compatible? Starting with your own cultural background may be helpful. Also, finding someone located in your cities, such as in Detroit or Troy, can also be great. But ultimately, therapists who can “dive deep” into our lives and offer useful observations we may not have made ourselves are among the most significant and helpful.
“I hope you have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next Thursday!” I exclaimed.
Quickly before we parted ways, Sarah interjected, “Meeting with you helps a lot because I feel like you get me. I was worried that my next therapist wouldn’t understand my problems, so I’m glad that you do.”
Before I had a chance to ask Sarah what she meant, I realized our session time had ended. I wondered what Sarah meant by this. I spent time reflecting on why she felt like I could understand her better than other therapists she’s had in the past, and what it had to do with what I brought to our therapy sessions.
Inherently, I thought to myself, “Well, aren’t all therapists responsible for being confidential, empathetic, and active listeners?” I didn’t see how that made me unique in supporting her during our sessions. But I seemed to provide Sarah with more reassurance than other therapists she had met in the past had been able to.
During our next session, I expressed curiosity with Sarah in terms of what helped her feel understood; we had a back and forth dialogue of exploration about her experience. Naturally, the term “relatable” turned up in the conversation.
Sarah is a Muslim woman in her 20’s – I am also a Muslim woman in my 20’s. On the outside, we were both visibly fit into the same categories of “Muslim,” “young,” and “female” just from our outward appearances.
So, that had me wondering about the philosophy regarding human compatibility in a therapeutic setting. Why do we feel more comfortable around people who look like us, and what does that say about how influential relatability is?
Relatability is the gateway towards deep connections, understanding, and reassurance. When reading our favorite books, we find ourselves gravitating towards the characters that most reflect our inner desires and perspectives. When we can identify as part of a larger story, we resonate very deeply with the characters, plot, and theme of the book which all becomes more meaningful.
After further reflection, I recognized that when provided a common denominator among another individual, humans immediately feel a sense of safety, empathy, and emotional support to varying degrees. In our therapeutic relationship, the intersection between Sarah and I landed with the most identifiable factors of our lives – being young Muslim women. I began to understand that simply sharing these few factors of my identity helped provide Sarah with a safe place where she felt I could view life from her perspective and understand her experiences.
Although Sarah found it beneficial to have someone like me as her therapist, therapy may not always place you with someone who looks, acts, or even thinks like you – and that’s okay. Being willing to let others in to learn about who you are as equally important and may even bring new views, perspectives, and lessons into your own unique lives.
Author: Sadfah Shohatee, LLMSW
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